Summary: When David allows a vacuum to grow in the nation’s leadership, Joab is forced to build a siege ramp to deal with the problem
Joab is not a good guy. We find him in the midst of a great deal of political intrigue in the midst of David’s Court. He literally MURDERS the man that David had replaced him in office with. David is not longer running from the confrontation such as that of Absalom, but is beginning to deal with matters in a more head on manner. But there is a lesson that can be learned from his actions in pursuing Sheba, who was in rebellion against David as King.
In II Samuel 20 we find that Joab and the army (in an effort to win himself a place in David’s court most likely. Amasa, who David named to replace Joab (because of Joab’s disobedience when he killed Absalom) tarried too long in chasing down Sheba, who argued that David should no longer be King.
First, Let’s look at things from Sheba’s point of view. The nation was divided over the issue of whether or not David should be returned to the throne. The people of Judah sent for David to resolve the issue. Sheba declared that the Northern part of the nation (Israel) should not follow David. Whether or not he planned to establish himself as king or some other is not certain, but he was in rebellion. Why?
INJUSTICE IN THE LAND
Well, Absalom had sown quite a few seeds of discontent. During his period of meeting people at the palace gate he had pointed out every flaw in David’s reign and strongly implied that there was no justice to be found in David’s kingdom. This was not an unfounded accusation.
David’s reign saw far too little justice. We know that David did a great job of defending the nation against external foes, such as the Philistines, but when it came to confrontation with his own people he just didn’t want to deal well with it. David had committed adultery and murder, and escaped the penalties of the law. Amnon had raped Tamar, and while we see that David was furious over it, nothing appeared to happen. Absalom murdered Amnon later in vengeance, and once again David did nothing more than banish Absalom from his presence. Absalom took the throne from David and rather than fight, he ran. Joab murdered Absalom and David’s drastic action is to reassign Joab, basically a do-nothing approach. When David returns to Jerusalem, he finds Mephibosheth, who obviously (because he had not bathed, shaved, nor even changed clothes) had mourned the missing king (or perhaps been in hiding) David does not want to deal with justly settling the issue between Ziba (Mephibosheth’s servant who claimed Mephibosheth had sided with Absalom) and Mephibosheth, but says abruptly, "just divide the lands between the two men." Mephibosheth’s answer makes it clear that he was not interested in the lands, but rather the rebuilding of the relationship. It had to be clear to King David who was lying in that situation, but he did nothing to bring about justice.
David’s misbehavior and "do-nothing" attitude led to a vacuum that made it questionable whether he had a right to return to the throne. Sheba was leading the Israelites to a vote of "no-confidence," and David knew it before he came to Jerusalem. Did he try to resolve the issues? We have no indication that he did so.
So Sheba may have felt justified in his rebellious actions. He wasn’t right to do what he did, but he may have felt as if he was right.
BUT DAVID WAS A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART, WASN’T HE?
Of course, David was a man who loved God and had godly characteristics. But the Bible shows every Biblical character (except Jesus) with their flaws. It was much easier for David to trust God and be that man "after God’s heart" when he was in the field with the sheep than when he had the responsibilities over a whole kingdom.
In your own spiritual growth, there are places where it is easier than others to be a person who is following God’s ways and paying attention to God. With all of his responsibilities he made some mistakes. This does not mean he did not love God, have faith in God, etc. It just meant that there were times in his life when his focus wasn’t on God’s will.
GETTING BACK TO JOAB
Joab’s men rally to chase Sheba and they corner him in a town called Abel. The people there grant him refuge and Joab proceeds to build a siege ramp, a siege tower, a battering ram.. but a way to get into the city. He demonstrates that he clearly intends to get into the city and capture Sheba.
WHEN DO YOU NEED TO BUILD A SIEGE TOWER?
Despite Joab’s murderous behavior, he was seeking to bring a rebel to justice. He was right to make it clear to those who were standing on the wrong side of an issue that he was serious about the issue.